MLK Plaza bought by DC developer

The 88,000-square-foot Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood was sold last week to a Washington DC-based developer which seeks to redevelop the site with housing, commercial and live-work spaces (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Mixed-use redevelopment sought

Continued redevelopment of Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood was put into play last week following the acquisition of 4.45 acres of property which has hosted the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, 9300 Wade Park Ave., since 1972. Purchasing the MLK Plaza on Feb. 6 for $2.75 million was an affiliate of Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures (NREUV), according to Cuyahoga County records.

In a written statement, NREUV said it plans to redevelop the site by constructing 149 multi-family units, 7,500 square feet of commercial space, and 6,700 square feet of live-work space, with future phases of townhomes and multi-family housing on the same site. Cleveland Development Advisors and Enterprise Community Partners provided funding for the project.

The first phase of the MLK Plaza project will include 64 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and 25 townhomes, as well as 6,700 sq. ft of small tenant spaces for residents. The second phase will include an additional 60 one- and two-bedroom units and a 7,500-square-foot commercial building. NREUV will work to attract small, black-owned businesses and will be creating a community ownership model offering residents and business owners the opportunity to buy shares in the development.

“As a black female developer and entrepreneur, this project is particularly meaningful to me,” said Gina Merritt, NREUV principal. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to invest in a historic Black neighborhood and do something powerful in partnership with the community. This is a win for race equity in real estate development.”

The 88,000-square-foot MLK Plaza was built in 1972 and designed by Robert P. Madison, the first Black architect licensed in the state of Ohio. It was one of the first projects built after the Hough riots and was intended to be a beacon of progress for Black entrepreneurship and the re-building of the Hough community with 14 apartments on the second floor, called King Manor. NREUV acquired the MLK Plaza from Rev. Wesley Toles, owner of Emerald Resources Inc. He has owned the property since 1996 and said he wanted to transfer the property to a developer committed to revitalizing the community.

Entrance to the 14 apartments on the second floor and called King Manor (Google).

“I have owned this property for many years,” Toles said. “It is filled with historical significance and it has been my hope that it would once again serve as a beacon of progress for the Hough community. I am excited that we were able to sell to a black female who is committed to doing something positive for this neighborhood.”

Unfortunately, years of widespread disinvestment in the neighborhood has had a negative impact on attracting and retaining residents and businesses to MLK Plaza. NREUV’s press statement is silent on whether MLK Plaza would be demolished and Merritt did not comment on it, likely out of respect for Madison which suggests the building will be razed.

Merritt said she said wants to change the chronic disinvestment in the neighborhood. The MLK Plaza site’s development is one of several projects totaling more than $200 million in investment that NREUV has underway in the Hough neighborhood. Other projects include 9410 Hough Avenue, a condemned 10-story, 116-unit apartment building, and vacant land across from the MLK Plaza.

NREUV is the lead developer on the 9410 property. Galveston, TX-based Sullivan Land Services Co. (SLSCO) bought the building in June 2021 for $1.5 million. NREUV plans to restore it as low-income housing but is seeking to close a financing gap caused by rising construction costs and interest rates. The project will include 5,000 square feet for a community center on two floors. Also, vacant land located at Crawford Avenue and Kenmore Street will be developed into 50 units of family housing, Merritt said.

“It is my goal to ensure the Hough neighborhood receives the investment it deserves to ensure it thrives for decades to come,” she said.


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